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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Are´tas, the common name of several Arabian kings.

1. The first of whom we have any notice was a contemporary of the Jewish high-priest Jason and of Antiochus Epiphanes about B.C. 170 (2 Maccabees 5:8).

2. Josephus mentions an Aretas, king of the Arabians contemporary with Alexander Jannæus (died b.c 79) and his sons. After defeating Antiochus Dionysus, he reigned over Cœle-Syria, 'being called to the government by those that held Damascus by reason of the hatred they bore to Ptolemy Mennæus.' He took part with Hyrcanus in his contest for the sovereignty with his brother Aristobulus, and laid siege to Jerusalem, but, on the approach of the Roman general Scaurus, he retreated to Philadelphia. Hyrcanus and Aretas were pursued and defeated by Aristobulus, at a place called Papyron, and lost above 6000 men. Three or four years after, Scaurus, to whom Pompey had committed the government of Cœle-Syria, invaded Petræa, but finding it difficult to obtain provisions for his army, he consented to withdraw on the offer of 300 talents from Aretas.


Fig. 47—Coin displaying the name Aretas

3. Aretas, whose name was originally Æneas, succeeded Obodas. He was the father-in-law of Herod Antipas. The latter made proposals of marriage to the wife of his half-brother Herod-Philip, Herodias, the daughter of Aristobulus their brother, and the sister of Agrippa the Great. In consequence of this, the daughter of Aretas returned to her father, and a war (which had been fomented by previous disputes about the limits of their respective countries) ensued between Aretas and Herod. The army of the latter was totally destroyed, and on his sending an account of his disaster to Rome, the emperor immediately ordered Vitellius to bring Aretas prisoner alive, or, if dead, to send his head. But while Vitellius was on his march to Petra, news arrived of the death of Tiberius, upon which, after administering the oath of allegiance to his troops, he dismissed them to winter-quarters and returned to Rome. It must have been at this juncture that Aretas took possession of Damascus, and placed a governor in it with a garrison. For a knowledge of this fact we are indebted to the apostle Paul.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Aretas'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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